Christmas Joy

Our youngest daughter has been longing for a certain Christmas gift for weeks. She placed it on every Christmas list she prepared. She told everyone that she wanted a particular doll for Christmas, but somewhere along the way, she got the idea that she would not get it. Her second grade teacher told my wife the other day that our daughter thought we didn’t take her request seriously. All the while, this doll had been hidden away for weeks in anticipation of Christmas.

Since we travel to visit family every Christmas, we celebrate a few days early with just our family of six. All throughout the day, our youngest daughter talked about the doll and how much she wanted to get it for Christmas. My wife and I would occasionally catch each other’s eye and smile. Finally, the time came for our annual family Christmas celebration. After dinner, we distributed gifts and directed each child which gift to open first. Although she was excited to open her first couple of gifts, our daughter kept asking about the doll. Finally, we told her to open her last gift, and there it was. The sheer joy and excitement on her face was indescribable!

Our daughter had spent weeks hoping for one present. Most of her conversations revolved around the possibility of receiving this gift for Christmas. Once she received it, she continued to talk about it. But now she talks about this gift in different terms. She wants everyone to see the doll. She wants everyone to know that she got the doll for Christmas. She wants everyone to enjoy her doll as much as she does.

Is this not how we should feel about the greatest gift ever given? Should we not find great joy in the fact that God has given us the precious gift of His Son?

At this time of year, I like to reflect upon some of the prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the Messiah. In many ways, they remind me of the anticipation that my daughter expressed for receiving the one gift that would make her Christmas special. One of my favorites is found in Isaiah.

In Isaiah 7, God offers Ahaz a sign of His promise. He says, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

I can only imagine how Ahaz received this prophecy. Did he anticipate this child would come immediately? Did he inquire about the circumstances of every birth from that point forward? Did he expect to meet Immanuel personally? We may never know the answers to these questions, but we do know that this prophecy was fulfilled very specifically.

Fast forward to the Gospels, and we see a couple—Mary and Joseph—who had an unusual experience. These two were betrothed to be married, but Mary was found to be pregnant. Luke 1:26-38 tells us that the angel Gabriel had appeared to Mary to tell her of the special circumstances of this child’s birth, but Joseph was still unaware.

Imagine with me what a conversation might have looked like between Mary and Joseph the next day. Mary finds Joseph at his carpentry shop and asks him to step outside for a quick conversation. She tells him that she is expecting a child. In shock, he asks her how this could be. She tries to reassure him that all is well because an angel had appeared to her the night before, telling her that she was carrying the Son of God. Joseph must have been flabbergasted and convinced that his soon-to-be bride had lost her mind. Matthew tells us that Joseph even considered sending her away secretly—a righteous act considering that her apparent infidelity could have brought public shame. However, Matthew goes on to report that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to reveal to him that his betrothed wife was telling the truth. This is where we are pointed back to the prophecy of Isaiah. Matthew records:

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:20-23).

From the days of Ahaz until the angel revealed to Joseph that his betrothed wife would bear a son, the prophecy of Isaiah was mostly a mystery. Yet that mystery was revealed in Matthew 1:23. The fulfillment of this prophecy gives us great hope. God has come to us. He has made a way for us to be in relationship with Him.

How should we respond? I pray that our joy would be revealed just like the joy on my daughter’s face when she received her most anticipated gift. We do not anticipate this gift any longer; however, we should find great joy in telling others about the gift we have received. May this Christmas be filled with reminders of God’s precious gift and the joy we have in both receiving it and telling others about it.